Dec 8

 IHTC conversations

  posted by helyn on 08.12.13 14:40 as Yes, winning is not everything.

Continuing the conversation engaged with Stacy Wilson about wrong diagnosis, this reflection of Kristine Matlack DVM, is very pertinent "There has always been a disconnection between what top horsemen know and what vets work with, their knowledge base is structural and physiological, and drugs, and surgery and healing, but not movement oriented. The art of rehabilitation after injury is just becoming a serious field of study.... great horsemen have always done it well, but they have not been asked to speak at the vet schools!” Decades ago, Kristine Matlack worked as a vet for the Olympic jumping team. She bred jumpers and one of her horse lead Kathy Kussner to victory. Kristine Matlack does have a unique experience about the education directing veterinary diagnoses and the reality of educating and reeducating horses. Top horse persons are capable, through the combination of skill and knowledge, to prepare efficiently the horses’ physique for the athletic demand of the performance. Not so knowledgeable horse persons can exploit the horses’ talent but only until they became lame.

The horse presented here on the piaff is the same horse that the one illustrating the quote about lightness. One year or two earlier, the horse was diagnosed with neurological disorder. He did not have any motion in the whole thoracolumbar spine. As a result, he was a mediocre mover having great difficulties to perform. His owner was a student of me and she did not believe in the neurological diagnosis and trainers advice.  She was capable at some instance to have a trot with so much suspension that it was difficult to sit but could not at other moment even turn on a circle. I told her that intense back muscles contraction can create reaction that can be interpreted as neurological disorder. The horse flanked the neurological tests but as you can see, it was not due to a neurological problem. This is where Kristine Matlack observation became so pertinent. True horsemen, means riders and trainers combining skill and knowledge. Only skill and advanced understanding of equine biomechanics can resolve problems as complexes as the one presented by this horse. The capacity of understanding biomechanically where the problem comes from and therefore the capacity of explaining it allows other riders and trainers to learn. The owner of the horse learned how to ride the horse and was capable to keep him sound and performing well.

The problem is that everyone pretends to do that. Many may have the skill but without the knowledge, they can only talk about collection, balance, etc. The only performance that they can achieve is what the horse is capable to achieve out of his talent and in spite of the rider’s limitation. What is sad is that many riders have the skill to become really good but they are restricted by training techniques based on archaic knowledge. If this horse has been reeducated through so-called stretching and other theories, he would never have re-awaked his vertebral column mechanism. The horse locked the whole thoracolumbar spine as a result of being rushed forward with heavy contact on the bit. His protective reflex mechanism went even further when a rehabilitation program attempted relaxing his back through stretching exercises. The solution was recreating proper functioning of his vertebral column mechanism. This of course started with proper use of the rider’s vertebral column mechanism. The horse was feed up with all training techniques flexing the back between engagements of the hind legs 1and flexion of the neck. He was instead interested by a back to back dialogue. Such dialogue demands authentic balance. If the rider’s upper body leans forward or backward, the rider might say or even believe that he or she is working the horse’s back but the reality is that the horse is protecting his back from the rider. The horse’s main back muscles are oriented in opposite direction and only a rider in authentic balance, which means having a body weight perfectly neutral and not acting back to front or front to back, can properly coordinate the work of the back muscles. At the 17th century, the Duke of Newcastle talks about an "immovable" pelvis. The evolution of riding went in two different directions, the ones who move a lot and teach to move a lot and the ones who barely move and teach how to achieve such sophistication. The fact is that teaching more movement never leads to sophistication. Horses need discretion, peaceful rhythm and minimum movement allowing greater control of the forces. This is the secret of correct riding and this is how real "horsemen,” as say Kristine Matlack, can achieve complex rehabilitation.

Jean Luc   



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